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Sunset Blvd.

Saturday, June 19, 2021, 7:30 p.m., Dryden Theatre

(Billy Wilder, US 1950, 110 min., 35mm)

Gloria Swanson shines as Norma Desmond in this true-to-life story of a fading silent film star and the struggling Hollywood studio system. Norma lives in seclusion in her Sunset Boulevard mansion, surrounded by portraits of her younger self. Her former director and ex-husband, Max von Mayerling (Erich von Stroheim), serves as her devoted butler and projectionist, screening her old films. (In one reality-blurring scene, Max projects Queen Kelly, a real film from 1928 starring Swanson and directed by von Stroheim.) Norma invites a young, struggling writer named Joe Gillis (William Holden) to live in her mansion with the pretension of being her script editor, although he also becomes her kept lover with a foreshadowed violent demise. Cameos by silent film stars and directors abound, including Buster Keaton and Cecil B. DeMille, to whom Norma directs her final line: “All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my closeup.”